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National lottery might pay for Olympics



But minister responsible for the 2010 Winter Games says idea faces major hurdles

Major hurdles face the federal government’s idea of using a national lottery to pay for Olympic Games and other hallmark sporting events says the B.C. minister responsible for the 2010 games Ted Nebbeling.

"I think it is going to be more complicated than it appears on the surface," he said.

Last weekend Heritage Minister Sheila Copps said the federal and provincial governments were working on the concept of a national lottery.

The greatest hurdle, said Nebbeling, will be to get all the provinces to buy into the idea.

"Quebec has always been vigorous about standing up for their right to control lotteries and it is probably the province with the highest participation in lotteries," he said.

"Certainly when we get the layout we will look at it and discuss it with the federal government but it really depends on the other provinces’ willingness."

Traditionally lotteries are under provincial jurisdiction and the provinces receive millions in revenue from them annually.

If the idea is accepted by the provinces, said Nebbeling, the federal government faces the challenge of deciding what kind of lottery to run.

It can’t simply be another scratch card. It has to be something new.

Nebbeling suggested informally to federal colleagues that a lottery similar to ones run in several European countries be considered.

In those lotteries purchasers buy one ticket good for several draws over a period of months. As long as no one wins the jackpot continues to grow.

"I don’t think the provinces want to give up the revenue they derive from lotteries today by just adding another scratch ticket," said Nebbeling.

"It has to be something new and appealing."

In Germany a nationally-backed lottery helps fund many good causes while in Spain the money is used to help pay for health care and facilities.

Nebbeling said he is waiting for a more concrete plan to be forwarded to him from Copp’s ministry.

It’s currently estimated that all levels of government would need to spend $620 million to pay for the must-have facilities for the 2010 Winter Games.

Other costs such as road improvements, the construction of a new convention centre in Vancouver, a Vancouver-Richmond rapid transit system and security costs would also need to be covered.

Sam Corea, media spokesman for the 2010 bid welcomed the idea that the federal government is considering a lottery to help with funding.

"As far as the bid is concerned we are thrilled that the minister is looking ahead and showing confidence that we are going to win so she is now thinking ahead to how we are going to build the facilities," he said.

"But, really it is not for the Bid Corporation to determine what a lottery would look like, should there be a lottery."